We are moving to a paperless society, so why keep a bookshelf with survival books?
Well, it’s fine to have the digital options, but in case of power failures, or an EMP, the knowledge contained in print can last for generations. Plus, you can access books at any time without having to worry about whether your device is charged, or has internet connection.
Take books out into the field with you to check up on items as diverse as “How to Build a Root Cellar” or “How to Make an Emergency Shelter”.
Have them in the kitchen to reach for a recipe when suddenly you have a barrowload of red peppers or zucchini, and are looking for ideas of how to use and preserve the bountiful harvest. Consult them when there is an emergency and you need to check that what you are doing is right.
While survivalists tend to rely on the earth and what it can provide via hunting, foraging and growing, preppers on the other hand tend to bug in and stockpile larger quantities of non-perishable goods.
Instead of relying heavily on personal skills in the event of a disaster, preppers also tend to keep what they believe will need ready to use. There is an overlap, of course, but as an example, a survivalist will know how to make a rope out of materials found in the woods, while a prepper may have rope ready to use.
There are no books with medical advice suggested here, other than first aid, which is covered in some of the manuals.
It is best to get the person to a qualified doctor rather than try administering medicine or treatment in extreme cases, which could possibly be incorrect and have serious if not fatal consequences.
The title is 30 Best Survival Books, but within survival in broad terms the following five topics will be covered with suggestions of books to acquire and keep for each:
- Wilderness Survival
- Survival Fiction
There may be some overlaps – for example some DIY books overlap into homesteading and some survival books incorporate wilderness survival, so just bear this in mind.
The list aims for a balance between general books for those starting out on their prepper, homesteading or wilderness survival journey and other more specialized books for those who know what they are doing and want specialized information to add to their storehouse of knowledge.
1. Just in case – How to be self-sufficient when the unexpected happens
This is an overall introduction to prepping for those fairly new to the concept. It guides you though making an inventory, rotating your stocks, packing your evacuation bag, and lots more.
You are guided through different scenarios when nature throws its worst at you – hurricanes, floods, or wildfires. While to experienced preppers this may not be useful, to new families it could be a very handy guide despite its bias towards the colder states – you’ll have to adjust the suggesting clothing lists if you live in, say, Florida. Get the book.
2. Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living – Jim Cobb
Cobb focuses on long term survival for preppers whereas most survival guides focus on getting out of a tough situation and finding your way back to society, or protecting yourself in the short-term.
The author helps with advice for a long-term plan post collapse, where people have to rely on alternative sources of energy to keep going.
There is advice on establishing a garden, building shelter, off-grid power options, and you’ll be given pointers on keeping your base safe from predatory humans – and animals. Get the book.
3. Long Range Shooting Handbook: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting – Ryan M Cleckner
The title indicates the handbook is for beginners, but even more experienced folks who have used this book have picked up a few more tips. The author gets down to business without wasting words, and clearly explains procedures for becoming a better shot.
The book is divided into three categories that cover equipment and technology, long range shooting, and practical advice that will turn you into a successful shooter.
Shooting at close range isn’t too difficult, but mastery of long range shooting is more likely to give you the edge in providing food and keeping you safe in dire situations. Get the book.
4. Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying Put is Not an Option – Fernando ‘Ferfal’ Aguirre
The second of Aguirre’s books, this one covers not just moving to another part of the state but also to another country. Aquirre has done this himself – leaving Argentina with his family, to settle in Northern Ireland.
The book does cover short term bugging out, in the face of natural or man-induced disasters; then it covers relocating to another part of the county; and finally the big one – leaving your country to bug out abroad.
The book is filled with practical advice on dealing with situations and re-establishing yourself. The author did a heap of research for his own move, and provides plenty of information on countries where English is the main language.
He also gives some advice that runs counter to the advice given in other books – but he has been there and done it so rather than an armchair view we have a more realistic picture of bugging out.
Just so you are aware, English is the author’s second language so you may find some word usage a little unusual and maybe a few spelling mistakes – but just roll with it.
The book was self-published which probably increases its value as the author didn’t have a non-survivalist publisher deciding what should be included. Aguirre gives an honest perspective of the bugging out experience. Get the book.
5. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why? – Amanda Ripley
Have you ever wondered why sometimes it seems to be the unlikeliest people who survive? Ripley answers these questions through examining various disasters throughout history from airplane crashes to tsunamis and earthquakes.
With the majority of Americans at risk from various natural disasters and terrorism, it’s the split second decisions that could save you and your family.
By collecting information from trauma psychologists, neuroscientists and on-the-ground disaster experts the authors is able to provide some insight into the way our brains work, and how we can better our chances of survival, instead of becoming a statistic. Get the book.
6. SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition – John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman
This is the guide to surviving anywhere. Packed with information that’s proven its worth in survival situations this spiral bound book is written by a SAS instructor. The latest edition even has 100 extra pages on urban survival, which considering more than 66% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, is very welcome.
Reviewers have pointed out some information that is incorrect or not very practical because you need special tools.
Other than a few small issues, it provides a handy guide for people starting out. As you gain more survival skills pertaining to specific situations you might want to move on to more focused books that hone in on your particular area of interest. Get the book.
7. When All Hell Breaks Loose – Cody Lundin
If you are looking for a book on surviving in an urban (or rural) situation this book will help with mental preparedness.
Forget chapters on the types of guns you should buy – this is more about adapting your skills and honing them to stay alive. Half the trick is your mindset.
Then, instead of suggesting all sorts of fancy gadgets, the author focuses on affordable and useful ones, and explains the theory behind the practice. It’s a solid book for those getting into preparedness.
It does not contain elaborate instructions and plans of how to construct certain items, but you can get those elsewhere. What is does have is information on a diversity of skills to survive a disaster situation. Get the book.
8. 100 Deadly Skills Survival Edition
Clint Emerson is a retired Navy SEAL who shares his specialized knowledge gained over 20 years of missions all over the world. It’s all about surviving in the wild, at sea, in the city, and even on the subways.
He had adapted the 100 skills shared in the book from his field experiences, to help civilians adopt the mind-set of a special forces soldier.
The skills are accompanied by easy-to-follow illustrations so you can grasp the concepts quickly and start putting them into practice without having to work through a list of complicated instructions.
Emerson has also written a Combat Edition with techniques on overpowering enemies and staying alive. Get the book.
9. When the Grid Goes Down: Disaster Preparations and Survival Gear for Making Your Home Self-Reliant – Tony Nester
Although this book focuses on short term survival – like when a natural disaster or temporary glitch in the system occurs, much of the author’s advice can be applied to long-term survival.
Nester, a survival instructor, identifies 6 key areas for creating a self-reliant home. Seeing as most of us live in urban surroundings his advice is geared to collecting the essential gear you would need, and honing the skills and techniques to survive.
It’s a book well worth keeping handy and reading regularly, as his advice is practical, and has been field tested. Get the book.
10. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook – Joshua Niven and David Borgenicht
There are a lot of people who have found this book has some very useful information like escaping a swarm of angry bees, fending off an alligator, dealing with a snake-bite, breaking down a door, or getting out of a car that’s sinking into a lake.
This book seems to be popular especially with younger readers who get a laugh out of some of the advice because the author has a witty way of writing – teens seem to enjoy the idea of landing a plane when the pilot passes out. Possibly a book for teens and young adults, or those new to survival. Get the book.
11. 5 Acres and a Dream – The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead – Leigh Tate
Leigh Tate takes you on her personal journey in her book that reflects her personal journey from an idealized dream of a home in the country, to the reality of homesteading. It’s not all honey and lavender.
The book may not be a step by step guide on how-to-this and how-to-that, but the information reflects the challenges of establishing a homestead from the start. There is plenty of very useful information, as well as a look at the joys and heartaches.
Do you start building up a self-sufficient homestead when you’ve recently retired? Tate provides some honest answers. Get the book.
12. Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, edited by Abigail R. Gehring
At over 500 pages, this book is comprehensive, covering everything from buying your piece of land on which to establish a homestead, to building a home, and a barn.
Then it dives into subjects as diverse as keeping animals, beekeeping, soapmaking, food preservation, and more. While it cannot hope to cover all of the subjects in detail, it’s great for inspiration when starting out with homesteading.
Once you get into a particular activity – let’s say cheese-making you can purchase other more in-depth books on that particular activity. Get the book.
13. No Dig Organic Home and Garden: Grow, Cook, Use and Store Your Harvest – Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty
No digging? Yes, please. In line with the new thinking – or actually ancient wisdom rediscovered, learn how to improve your soil so you can grow bounteous crops without all the backbreaking digging. This book won the Garden Media Guild (UK) for the Most Practical Book of the Year.
Here you’ll find tips on making compost to enrich the soil, growing vegetables, year round harvesting and food preparation, as well as how to use your part of your harvest to make natural cosmetics, products to clean the home and even ones to keep plants well nurtured. Get the book.
14. Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide – Carol Hupping
This book is touted as ‘America’s Classic Preserving Guide’. I have a hardcover copy that I have been using for years, and the proof is in the occasional marks on the recipe pages, and the faded red cover – the dust jacket was lost long ago.
You’ll be bound to find a recipe in stocking up for produce from the garden that you haven’t tried preserving before. There are hundreds of recipes for relishes, chutneys, jellies and jams.
Then there is advice on preserving meat, cooking veggies, and the book even has instructions on how to build a root cellar. No homesteader’s kitchen should be without it. Get the book.
15. The Forager’s Harvest – A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Wild Edible Plants – Samuel Thayer
This book is just what foragers need. With celebrity chefs leading customers on organized foraging trips, then heading back to the restaurant to transform the ingredients into culinary wonders, foraging has become a modern day trend.
The book discusses 32 easily foraged plants in North America with tips on how to prepare them, and their benefits.
Whereas most field guides can be overwhelming and confusing with the amount of information provided, by limiting the number of plants, the author makes foraging so much easier to get into. This guide should accompany you on all foraging trips. Get the book.
16. 40 Projects for Building your Backyard Homestead – David Toht
While some of the so-called ‘projects’ are different variations on a theme (like the chicken coops), there are still a good number of very useful ideas.
Accompanying each project is a handy list of the tools and materials needed, together with fairly clear instructions on how to put it all together.
You’ll find your backyard homestead ready to flourish, and provide you with food once you’ve completed some of these projects.
It has been pointed out that it’s more backyard than homestead in terms of scale – but not everyone has a massive area on which to start homesteading. Learn small then scale up when you are confident. Get the book.
17. How to Build Your Dream Cabin in the Woods: The Ultimate Guide to Building and Maintaining a Backcountry Getaway – J Wayne Fears
Building a cabin needs to be done right, from the foundation up. This guide gives you the full story from choosing a suitable site and gathering your construction materials to creating a design that will suit your needs.
The extras like a shooting range and a fire pit are included as well as the all important issue of making your cabin secure, plus plenty more. There are enough photos, diagrams and blueprints to make building that much easier. Get the book.
18. Modern Potable Rainwater Harvesting: System Design, Construction and Maintenance – Daniel M. Brown
Rainwater harvesting is already of vital importance as we see municipal water systems failing in many parts of the world.
The book provides readers with plumbing diagrams to use in both on-grid and off-grid situations. There is information on choosing the correct size of pump for the storage tanks envisioned.
Actual rainfall data for your region, the area of the roof for collection, and estimated daily usage for the household are all taken into account when deciding on what storage capacity is needed.
You are shown how to put this on a spreadsheet when designing your own rainwater harvesting system. Written by a person who has actually built and run his own system successfully for a number of years it has knowledge not readily available elsewhere. Get the book.
19. Knife Engineering: Steel, Heat Treating, and Geometry – Dr Larrin Thomas
When you want to make knives, you may as well do it properly and this guide gives you the advanced knowledge you need to make knives top quality knives.
The author goes in-depth on metallurgy, heat treatment, the properties of different types of steel and edge geometries to ensure knives provide superior performance.
Larrin Thomas, who holds a PhD in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, is the son of Devin Thomas, the famous Damascus steel maker. This is the definitive guide if you are serious about steel. Get the book.
20. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture – Toby Hemenway
Over 250 000 copies of this guide to ecological gardening have been sold. The author shows you how to get your backyard ecosystem going through putting together plants that benefit each other, help build the soil, use water wisely and help create a bio-diverse habitat for insects, birds, and animals.
The best part is that it shows how to evade the usual aching muscles associated with conventional gardening and lawn mowing. Get the book.
Wilderness Survival Books
21. Outdoor Survival Guide – Randy Gerke
Randy Gerke is well-respected in survival circles. He founded and owns Enviro-Tech International, a company through which he has been teaching members of government agencies, corporations, and individuals, how to survive hazards outdoors since 1978.
He was captain of the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team in Ouray, Colorado. As such he knows plenty about wilderness rescue and survival, and emergency medicine in the wilderness.
Take a paperback copy along with you on camping trips, or certainly read it very carefully before you go. At any time a glorious morning or afternoon hike can turn into a survival situation.
The author teaches the skills of remaining calm, and special techniques to get you out of trouble and back to safety. It isn’t just for hikers, but for everyone who needs to be prepared to survive in the wilderness. Get the book.
22. Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival – Mors Kochanski
Among the hundreds of books out there about wilderness survival it’s hard to find one that offers the practical advice a person needs without a load of extra non-essential words to wade through. Mors Kochanski gets it right – after all he’s a long-standing wilderness educator, who knows how to convey a message effectively.
Diagrams and color photos combined with clearly written instructions make this a worthwhile addition to your library.
Here you’ll find information about fires, chopping wood, shelter construction, tree felling, outdoor cooking, locating animals and edible plants, as well as info on making primitive tools, ropes, and even baskets from natural materials. Get the book.
23. The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin
The author was one of two German geologists who decided to hide out in the infamously inhospitable Namib desert, in Namibia (then South West Africa) during World War II, rather than fight for Hitler.
It is perhaps one of the best personal accounts of survival, written honestly and from the heart. Had these two ordinary citizens of German not done so, they would have been placed in an internment camp in Namibia for the duration of the war.
It is an account of the problems they encountered while hiding and surviving for two and half years, with Otto the dog as their only company.
The radio was only used occasionally for updates on the progress of the war. Their vehicle was kept hidden and moved when they changed camps, with care taken to erase their tracks.
They tried planting food only to have it eaten by baboons, they hunted, and they just managed to survive. Eventually they gave themselves up when Henno Martin’s companion started battling mentally and emotionally with the isolation.
Martin was better off than his companion because he took along a musical instrument and was involved in keeping an account of their experiences. The book covers their preparation, how long their goods lasted, how they battled for water and evaded human contact.
Translated from German it does have some philosophical meanderings towards the end – but this can probably be attributed to Martin’s state of mind as they realized they could not evade the madness of war. Get the book.
24. Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival – David Canterbury
The author is well-known in the survival world, and the book made the New York Times best seller list, which is rather unusual for a book on bushcraft. It probably made it for three reasons.
Firstly, it’s a good basic introduction to surviving with the minimum of gear; secondly David Canterbury’s style of writing is appealing; and thirdly he is well-known from the TV show ‘Dual Survival’ where he and Cody Lundin formed a team.
This book covers Canterbury’s Five C system of items you need to have with you in order to thrive, not just survive, for a short period in the bush. Get the book.
25. Special Forces Survival Guide: Desert, Arctic, Mountain, Jungle, Urban – Alexander Stilwell
Although not on the ‘bestseller’ lists, this book, written by a former British Territorial Army has incorporated techniques used by special forces around the world.
What makes it very useful it that it’s divided into five different terrains with tips and techniques for each. You’ll find some advanced stuff you’ve may not have heard before.
The guide is well illustrated with photos of various special forces form around the world using the techniques. The focus is on escaping dangerous situations and evading capture with very little gear. Get the book.
Which fiction books deserve to be placed in the survivalist genre? It seems that many novels cover a catastrophic event that forces the people left to make sense of the world they have been left with.
The challenge seems to be for those left alive to take charge, and rebuild society to replace the one that has been destroyed.
26. Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse – James Rawles
Well- known in prepper circles and with a military background, Rawles is able to bring this fast-paced novel to life through his attention to detail and accurate knowledge of survival.
Christian survivalists are stretched to the limits as they survive first a stock market crash, the ensuring economic collapse and then a civil war. Besides entertaining readers with the story you’ll pick up a lots of tips on preparing to survive some dire situations. Get the book.
27. Resurrecting Home – Book 5 of the Survivalist Series – A American
Morgan Carter and his family and friends have built up a sustainable lifestyle, despite the fact that the world has gone crazy and they have had to rely on every survivalist trick to survive.
Just when they think they have succeeded, a wildfire threatens their existence, and they have to make the decision to stay and fight, or flee ahead of the flames.
The Survivalist Series has become a hit, and this action packed adventure will not disappoint fans who will be rooting for Morgan as he finds the courage to do what’s right against all odds. Get the book.
28. At the End of the World (Black Tide Rising Anthologies) – John Ringo
The seventh book in the Black Tide series details the experiences of a group of teens on their journey to South Georgia Island under sail. A worldwide viral outbreak turns people into zombies, so when they reach the island the teens have to adapt and survive in a world where society has fallen apart.
An enjoyable read, the story flows well, as told by Alvaro, one of the characters. If you’ve enjoyed the other stories in the Black Tide Rising series you are bound to find this one does not disappoint. et the books here.
29. Rohan Nation: Reinventing America after the 2020 Collapse – Drew Miller
This subject matter may be uncomfortably close to home as the survivors of biological warfare and an EMP fight to reinvent America. In the novel, the collapse takes place in 2020 where Ace and Justin, two teens must defend their community as their youthful romance unfolds in this combat action thriller.
The novel takes a libertarian philosophical stance where the US is seen as reinventing itself with a focus on security and a move away from socialist entitlements.
The author, Dr Drew Miller, Harvard educated, is a researcher and writer for the US Department of Defence’s think tank and is a Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve.
He previously served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and has been a Pentagon program manager. Impressive credentials! Get the book.
30. Project 16 – Martyn J Pass
Miller has to fend for himself in England after things go horribly wrong, and the land is laid waste. He is tasked with hunting down the looters and marauders who come to his country.
Collapsing buildings, packs of wild dogs and widespread disease are just some of the survival challenges. Then things get worse as a cold winter sets in, and former U.S. ranger, Claudia Riley, asks for help with finding her nephew who has disappeared.
Amid terrorist threats and the ill-judged attack by a US jet, Miller and Riley need to accomplish their mission before they get taken out by the real terrorists. Will they make it and will love triumph in the wastelands? Get the book.
If you’re looking for more fiction recommendations, check out our other article.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.